Today we welcome award-winning YA author Diane Les Becquets to the blog to discuss her recently released debut adult fiction novel, Breaking Wild. There has been so much buzz about this book! It’s earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Booklist as well as a spot on February’s Indie Next List. We are very excited to have Diane join us today. Breaking Wild is available now for purchase so grab yourself a copy and tell your book clubs about it.
Having published three Young Adult novels, Breaking Wild is your first adult publication. In what ways did your experience writing YA help you in writing for an adult audience? What elements of the story (such as theme, pacing, complexity) did you find most challenging to write?
Writing for a YA audience is definitely different. Because the protagonists were younger with my earlier novels, the pacing and attention was much different than with my adult novel. The pacing in a YA novel is tightened, and I believe that contributed to me enhancing the suspense and the spare prose of Breaking Wild.
The elements I found the most challenging to write had to do with my own impatience. The canvas for an adult novel is much larger than YA, and that canvas can feel incredibly overwhelming, particularly in the beginning. I was often afraid I would lose my thoughts or ideas. I seemed to be jotting them everywhere, and then would mark them off once I had included them in the manuscript. The whole process was much more daunting than when I had written my YA novels. You cannot rush the story. So, I would have to say the complexity of writing an adult novel is a lot to hold in one’s mind. The responsibility I felt in getting it right felt enormous. I literally needed to shed pages of material from my mind each day to lighten that burden.
Our reviewer, Carol Malkin, describes Breaking Wild as “a mix of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Aron Ralston’s 127 Hours.” Are you familiar with these titles? What is it about wilderness survival stories that you find most appealing and why do you think people find them fascinating?
I am very familiar with these titles and am a fan of both. (I’m a fan of the movies, also). For me, I cannot get enough of the outdoors and the natural world. These kinds of stories place me immediately in settings that otherwise I would have to do a lot of planning and spend a lot of money to get to. But it’s more than that. I love to see the human spirit challenged in tandem with the body. When a person’s desire to survive or forge ahead is so greatly thwarted, and that person has to rely upon a strength and resilience, a muscularity to both body and spirit that she didn’t know she had – that’s inspiration. I feel so alive when experiencing these kinds of books, and I feel motivated to become physically and mentally stronger, to stop watching so many episodes of Scandal or Grey’s Anatomy, and to make more of the moments that I have. I experience both a hunger and an intoxication that makes me want to be more and live more. I can only hope my story does the same for my readers.
The title, and book itself, is very metaphorical. What does the title mean to you? Can you share with us a bit about how you chose this title?
Sure. At first the title was Wild Spaces, but the novel had become so much more to me than the wild spaces both externally and internally for these two woman. I once heard someone say that, really, the only two things that matter in life are love and loss. There is some truth to that. This book is about both. And it is also about redemption and what we need to do in order to heal damaged relationships. Sometimes a person needs to be brought to her knees; she needs to break the wild spaces in her life that have allowed her to hurt others. Yet, like the wild horses, there will always be a part of her spirit that will remain free.
Breaking Wild is a very atmospheric novel. How did you go about using your own experiences as an outdoorswoman and competitive archer to build a story around the harsh Colorado landscape?
Writing the novel felt nostalgic. It felt like coming home because I could pull from experiences and landscapes that had played an important part in my personal life, such as bow hunting by myself from a tree stand, or tracking an elk in the rain, or even getting lost in the wilderness. I remember getting lost in a snowstorm as well, when I was on a snowmobile. In each of these experiences, my senses were like livewire, and I would memorize every detail around me, as well as what I was feeling. These memories play a large part in the book. I’ve had readers tell me that the book reads like nonfiction. Those comments don’t surprise me given the amount of physical research that went into the book as the result of my own encounters.
Penguin Random House has an excellent Readers Guide available online. What makes Breaking Wild an ideal for book discussion groups? Can you share with us some of the discussible themes in your novel?
There are so many themes that would be perfect for a book club discussion. Relationships certainly play a big part in these women’s lives, as does the question: What is love and how should it be defined in a relationship? And what are Pru’s and Amy Raye’s understandings of love? How does or doesn’t love affect each of these characters? There is also the theme of the internal, emotional landscape of each of these women, as juxtaposed against their external landscapes. What drives each of these women internally? What are their biggest challenges that they must overcome? What are their greatest fears? And do they succeed? What will the rest of their lives look like? But getting back to love, I hope readers will want to talk about what unconditional love is, and is everyone worth saving? And I think these are all questions every woman can ask herself. We all have the capacity to love; we all carry wounds; and we all have felt lost at some point in our lives. How have we navigated those loves and wounds and great losses?